The planting of autumn-sown Cabbages should be on well-made ground, following Peas, Beans, or Potatoes, and as much manure should be dug in as can be spared, for Cabbage will take all it can get in the way of nourishment. If the entire crop is to be left for hearting, a minimum of fifteen inches each way will be a safe distance for the smallest varieties. Supposing every alternate plant is to be drawn young for consumption as Coleworts, a foot apart will suffice, but in this case the surplus plants must be cleared off by the time spring growth commences. This procedure will leave a crop for hearting two feet apart, and when the heads are cut the stumps will yield a supply of Sprouts. As these Sprouts appear when vegetables are none too plentiful, they are welcome in many households, and make a really delicate dish of greens.
By sowing quick-growing varieties of Cabbage in drills during July and August, and thinning the plants early, thus avoiding the check of transplanting, heads may often be had fit for cutting in October and November.
The Red Cabbage is grown for pickling and also for stewing, being in demand at many tables as an accompaniment to roasted partridges. The plant requires the best ground that can be provided for it, with double digging and plenty of manure. Two sowings may be made, the first in April for a supply in autumn for cooking, and the second in August for a crop to stand the winter and to supply large heads for pickling.
Brassica oleracea bullata
The Savoy Cabbage is directly related to Brussels Sprouts, though differing immensely in appearance. It is of great value for the bulk of food it produces, as well as for its quality as a table vegetable during the autumn and winter. In all the essential points the Savoy may be grown in the same way as any other Cabbage, but it is the general practice to sow the seed in spring only, the time being determined by requirements. For an early supply, sow in February in a frame, and in an open bed in March, April, and May for succession. This vegetable needs a rich deep soil to produce fine heads, but it will pay better on poor soil than most other kinds of Cabbage, more especially if the smaller sorts are selected. Savoys are not profitable in the form of Collards; hence it is advisable to plant in the first instance at the proper distances, say twelve inches for the small sorts, eighteen for those of medium growth, and twenty to twenty-four where the ground is strong and large heads are required. In private gardens the smaller kinds are much the best, but the market grower must give preference to those that make large, showy heads.
CAPSICUM and CHILI
Capsicum annuum, C. baccatum
Capsicums and Chilis are so interesting and ornamental that it is surprising they are grown in comparatively few gardens. Sometimes there is reason to lament that Cayenne pepper is coloured with drugs, but the remedy is within reach of those who find the culture of Capsicums easy, and to compound the pepper is not a difficult task. The large-fruited varieties may also be prepared in various ways for the table, if gathered while quite young and before the fruits change colour.
The cultivation of Capsicums is a fairly simple matter. The best course of procedure is to sow seed thinly in February or March in pots or pans of fine soil placed on a gentle hot-bed or in a house where the temperature is maintained at about 55 deg.. Pot on the young plants as they develop and keep them growing without a check. Spray twice daily, for Capsicums require atmospheric moisture and the Red Spider is partial to the plant. Nice specimens may be grown in pots five to eight inches in diameter, beyond which it is not desirable to go, and as the summer advances these may be taken to the conservatory. Plants intended for fruiting in warm positions out of doors should be hardened off in readiness for transfer at the end of May. In gardens favourably situated, as are many in the South of England, it is sufficient to sow a pinch of seed on an open border in the middle of May, and put a hand glass over the spot. The plants from this sowing may be transferred to any sunny position, and will yield an abundant crop of peppers.
The Bird Pepper or Chili is grown in precisely the same way as advised for Capsicum.
To prepare the pods for pepper, put the required number into a wire basket, and consign them to a mild oven for about twelve hours. They are not to be cooked, but desiccated, and in most cases an ordinary oven, with the door kept open to prevent the heat rising too high, will answer perfectly. Being thus prepared, the next proceeding is to pound them in a mortar with one-fourth their weight of salt, which also should be dried in the oven, and used while hot. When finely pounded, bottle securely, and there will be a perfect sample of Cayenne pepper without any poisonous colouring. One hundred Chilis will make about two ounces of pepper, which will be sufficient in most houses for one year's supply. The large ornamental Capsicums may be put on strings, and hung up in a dry store-room, for use as required, to flavour soups, make Chili vinegar, Cayenne essence, &c. The last-named condiment is prepared by steeping Capsicums in pure spirits of wine. A few drops of the essence may be used in any soup, or indeed wherever the flavour of Cayenne pepper is required.
This plant is nearly related to the Globe Artichoke, and it makes a stately appearance when allowed to flower. Although the Cardoon is not widely cultivated in this country, it is found in some of our best gardens, and is undoubtedly a wholesome esculent from which a skilful cook will present an excellent dish. The stalks of the inner leaves are stewed, and are also used in soups, as well as for salads, during autumn and winter. The flowers, after being dried, possess the property of coagulating milk, for which purpose they are used in France.
In a retentive soil Cardoons should be grown on the flat, but the plant is a tolerably thirsty subject, and must have sufficient water. Hence on very dry soils it may be necessary to put it in trenches after the manner of Celery, and then it will obtain the full benefit of all the water that may be administered. In any case the soil must be rich and well pulverised if a satisfactory growth is to be obtained.
Towards the end of April rows are marked out three or four feet apart, and groups of seed sown at intervals of eighteen inches in the rows. The plants are thinned to one at each station, and in due time secured to stakes. Full growth is attained in August, when blanching is commenced by gathering the leaves together, wrapping them round with bands of hay, and earthing up. It requires from eight to ten weeks to accomplish the object fully. The French method is quicker. Seed is sown in pots under glass, and in May the plants are put out three feet apart. When fully grown the Cardoons are firmly secured to stakes by three small straw bands. A covering of straw, three inches thick, is thatched round every plant from bottom to top, and each top is tied and turned over like a nightcap. A little soil is then drawn to the foot, but earthing up is needless. In about a month blanching is completed.
The Carrot is a somewhat fastidious root, for although it is grown in every garden, it is not everywhere produced in the best style possible. The handsome long roots that are seen in the leading markets are the growth of deep sandy soils well tilled. On heavy lumpy land long clean roots cannot be secured by any kind of tillage. But for these unsuitable soils there are Sutton's Early Gem, the Champion Horn, and Intermediate, which require no great depth of earth; while for deep loams the New Red Intermediate answers admirably.
Forcing.—Carrots are forced in frames on very gentle hot-beds. They cannot be well grown in houses, and they must be grown slowly to be palatable. It is usual to begin in November, and to sow down a bed every three or four weeks until February. A lasting hot-bed is of the first importance, and it is therefore necessary to have a good supply of stable manure and leaves. The material should be thoroughly mixed and allowed to ferment for a few days. Then turn the heap again, and a few days later the bed may be made up. In order to conserve the heat the material will need to be three to four feet deep, and if a box frame is used the bed should be at least two feet wider than the frame. Build up the material in even, well-consolidated layers, to prevent unequal and undue sinking, and make the corners of the bed perfectly sound. Put on the bed about one foot depth of fine, rich soil; if there is any difficulty about this, eight inches must suffice, but twelve is to be preferred. As the season advances less fermenting material will be needed, and a simple but effective hot-bed may be made by digging out a hole of the required size and filling it with the manure. The latter will in due time sink, when the soil may be added and the frame placed in position. The bed should always be near the glass, and a great point is gained if the crop can be carried through without once giving water, for watering tends to damage the shape of the roots. No seed should be sown until the temperature has declined to 80 deg.. Sow broadcast, cover with siftings just deep enough to hide the seed, and close the frame. If after an interval the heat rises above 70 deg., give air to keep it down to that figure or to 65 deg.. It will probably decline to 60 deg. by the time the plant appears, but if the bed is a good one it will stand at that figure long enough to make the crop. Thin betimes to two or three inches, give air at every opportunity, let the plant have all the light possible, and cover up when hard weather is expected. Should the heat go down too soon, linings must be used to finish the crop. Radishes and other small things can be grown on the same bed. In cold frames seed may be sown in February.
Warm Borders.—In March the first sowings on warm borders in the open garden may be made. These may need the shelter of mats or old lights until the plant has made a good start, but it is not often the plant suffers in any serious degree from spring frosts, as the seed will not germinate until the soil acquires a safe temperature. All the early crops of Carrot can be grown on a prepared soil, or a light sandy loam, free from recent manure. The drills may be spaced from six to nine inches apart.
For the main crops double digging should be practised, and if the staple is poor a dressing of half-rotten dung may be put in with the bottom spit. But a general manuring as for a surface-rooting crop is not to be thought of, the sure effect being to cause the roots to fork and fang most injuriously. It is sound practice to select for Carrots a deep soil that was heavily manured the year before, and to prepare this by double digging without manure in the autumn or winter, so as to have the ground well pulverised by the time the seed is sown. Then dig it over one spit deep, break the lumps, and make seed-beds four feet wide. Sow in April and onwards in drills, mixing the seed with dry earth, the distance between rows to be eight to twelve inches according to the sort; cover the seed with a sprinkling of fine earth and finish the bed neatly. As soon as possible thin the crop, but not to the full distance in the first instance. The final spacing for main crops may be from six to nine inches, determined by the variety. By a little management it will be an easy matter during showery weather to draw delicate young Carrots for the final thinning, and these will admirably succeed the latest of the sowings in frames and warm borders.
Late Crops.—Sowings of early varieties made in July will give delicate little roots during the autumn and winter. The rows may be placed nine inches apart, and it is essential to thin the plants early to about three inches apart in the rows. In the event of very severe weather protect with dry litter. For providing young Carrots throughout the winter it is also an excellent plan to broadcast seed thinly. When grown in this way the plants afford each other protection, and the roots may be drawn immediately they are large enough.
In July the culture of the smaller sorts may also be undertaken in frames, but hot-beds may be dispensed with, and lights will not be wanted until there is a crop needing protection, when the lights may be put on, or the frames may be covered with shutters or mats.
Storing.—Before autumn frosts set in the main crop should be lifted and stored in dry earth or sand, the tops being removed and the earth rubbed off, but without any attempt to clean them thoroughly until they are wanted for use.
Carrots for Exhibition.—It will be found well worth while to give a little extra attention to the preparation of the ground when growing Carrots for exhibition. As in the case of Beet and Parsnip, holes should be bored to the requisite depth and about one foot apart in the rows. Where the soil is at all unfavourable to the growth of clean symmetrical roots the adoption of this practice will be essential to success. Any light soil of good quality will be suitable for filling the holes. Well firm the material in and sow about half a dozen seeds at a station, eventually thinning out to one plant at each. The tendency of Carrots to become green at the tops in the later stages of growth, thus spoiling them for show work, may be prevented by lightly covering the protruding portion of the root with sifted fine earth.
Destructive Enemies.—The Carrot maggot and the wire-worm are destructive enemies of this crop. In a later chapter on 'The Pests of Garden Plants,' both these foes are referred to. Here it is only necessary to say that sound judgment as to the choice of ground, deep digging, and the preparation of the beds in good time, are the preventives of these as of many other garden plagues. It is often observed that main crops sown early in April suffer more than those sown late, and the lesson is plain. It has also been noticed that where the crops have suffered most severely the land was made ready in haste, and the wild birds had no time to purge it of the insects which they daily seek for food.
Brassica oleracea botrytis cauliflora
This fine vegetable is managed in much the same way as Broccoli, and it requires similar conditions. But it is less hardy in constitution, more elegant in appearance, more delicate on the table, and needs greater care in cultivation to insure satisfactory results. As regards soil, the Cauliflower thrives best on very rich ground of medium texture. It will also do well on light land, if heavily manured, and quick growth is promoted by abundant watering. In Holland, Cauliflowers are grown in sand with water at the depth of a foot only below the surface, and the ground is prepared by liberal dressings of cow-manure, which, with the moisture rising from below, promotes a quick growth and a fine quality. In any case, good cultivation is necessary or the crop will be worthless; and whatever may be the nature of the soil, it must be well broken up and liberally manured.
In gardens where Cauliflower are in great demand, an unbroken supply of heads from May to November may be obtained by selecting suitable varieties and with careful management of the crop. But in arranging for a succession it should be borne in mind that some varieties are specially adapted for producing heads in spring and summer, while others are only suitable for use in late summer and autumn.
For Spring and Early Summer use.—To have Cauliflower in perfection in spring and early summer, seed should be sown in autumn. The exact time is a question of climate. In the northern counties the middle of August is none too early, but for the south seed may be got in during August and September, according to local conditions. The most satisfactory course is to sow in boxes, placed in a cool greenhouse or a cold frame, or even in a sheltered spot out of doors. For these sowings it is desirable to use poor soil of a calcareous nature, as at this period of the year the seedlings are liable to damp off in rich earth. From the commencement every endeavour must be made to keep the growth sturdy and to avoid a check of any kind. When the plants have made some progress, prick them off three inches apart each way into frames for the winter. No elaborate appliances are necessary. A suitable frame may be easily constructed by erecting wooden sides around a prepared bed of soil, over which lights, window frames, or even a canvas covering may be placed. Brick pits, or frames made with turf walls, will also answer well. The soil should not be rich, or undesirable fleshy growth will result, especially in a mild winter. It is important to ventilate freely at all times, except during severe weather when the structures should have the protection of mats or straw, and excessive moisture must be guarded against. As soon as conditions are favourable in February or March, transfer the plants to open quarters on the best land at command, and give them every possible care. For these early-maturing varieties a space of eighteen inches apart each way will generally suffice. With liberal treatment, vigorous healthy growth should be made and heads of the finest quality be ready for table from May onwards.
As we have already said, the best results with early Cauliflower are obtained from an autumn sowing, but there are many growers who prefer to sow in January or February. At this season the seed should be started in pans or boxes placed in a house just sufficiently heated to exclude frost. Prick out the plants early, in a frame or on a protected border made up with light rich soil, and when strong enough plant out on good ground. Spring sowings put out on poor land, or in dry seasons, are sometimes disappointing, because the heads are too small to please the majority of growers. Where, however, the soil is rich and the district suitable there is this advantage in quick cultivation, that while time is shortened and the worry of wintering is avoided, the crop is safer against buttoning and bolting, which will occasionally occur if the plants become too forward under glass and receive a check when planted out.
In well-prepared sheltered ground seed may also be sown in March and April, from which the plants should be pricked out once before being transferred to permanent positions. Occasional hoeing between the plants and heavy watering in dry weather will materially tend to their well-doing, the object being to maintain growth from the first without a check. If the plants turn in during very hot weather, snap one of the inner leaves without breaking it off, and bend it over to protect the head.
For use in Late Summer and Autumn.—Seed may be sown in April or very early in May, and where only one sowing is made the first week of April should be selected. A fine seed-bed in a sheltered spot is desirable, and as soon as the seedlings are large enough they should be pricked out, three inches or so apart. Shift to final quarters while in a smallish state. If the plants are allowed to become somewhat large in the seed-bed they are liable to 'button,' which means that small, worthless heads will be produced as the result of an untimely check. The distances between the plants may vary from one and a half to two feet or more, and between the rows from two to two and a half feet, according to the size of the variety. If put out on good ground, the crop will almost take care of itself, but should the plants need water it must be copiously given.
Cutting and Preserving.—The management of the crop has been treated so far as to growth, but we must now say a word about its appropriation. The two points for practical consideration are, how to economise a glut, and how to avoid destruction by frost. Cauliflowers should be cut at daybreak, or as soon after as possible, and be taken from the ground with the dew upon them. If cut after the dew has evaporated, the heads will be inferior by several degrees as compared with those cut at the dawn of the day. When the heads appear at too rapid a rate for immediate consumption, draw the plants, allowing the earth to remain attached to the roots, and suspend them head downwards in a cool, dark, dry place, and every evening give them a light shower of water from a syringe. The deterioration will be but trifling, and the gain may be considerable, but if left to battle with a burning sun the Cauliflowers will certainly be the worse for it. After being kept in this way for a week, they will still be good, although, like other preserved vegetables, they will not be so good as those freshly cut and in their prime. It often happens that frost occurs before the crop is finished. A similar plan of preserving those that are turning in may be adopted, but it is better to bury them in sand in a shed or under a wall, and, if kept dry, they may remain sound for a month or more.
Cauliflower for Exhibition.—On the exhibition stage few vegetables win greater admiration than well-grown heads of Cauliflower. Indeed, Cauliflower and Broccoli, in their respective seasons, are indispensable items in the composition of any first-class collection. By closely following the cultural directions contained in the foregoing pages no difficulty should be experienced in obtaining heads of the finest texture and spotless purity during many months of the year. The degree of success achieved is generally in proportion to the amount of attention devoted to minor details. Select the most robust plants and treat them generously. As soon as the heads are formed, examine them frequently to prevent disfiguration by vermin. The best period of the day for cutting has already been discussed. Do not allow the heads to stand a day longer than is necessary, and if not wanted immediately the plants should be lifted and preserved in the manner described in the preceding paragraph.
Celery is everywhere esteemed, not only as a salad, but as a wholesome and delicious vegetable. The crop requires the very best of cultivation, and care should be taken not to push the growth too far, for the gigantic Celery occasionally seen at Shows has, generally speaking, the quality of size only, being tough and tasteless. Nevertheless, the sorts that are held in high favour by growers of prize Celery are good in themselves when grown to a moderate size; it is the forcing system alone that deprives them of flavour. Yet another precaution may be needful to prevent a mishap. In a hot summer, Celery will sometimes 'bolt' or run up to flower, in which case it is worthless. This may be the fault of the cultivator more than of the seed or the weather, for a check in many cases hastens the flowering of plants, and it is not unusual for Celery to receive a check through mismanagement. If sown too early, it may be impossible to plant out when of suitable size, and the consequent arrest of growth at a most important stage may result in a disposition to flower the first year, instead of waiting for the second. It should be understood, therefore, that early sowing necessitates early planting, and the cultivator should see his way clearly from the commencement.
Sowing and Transplanting.—The 1st of March is early enough for a first sowing anywhere of a small variety, and this will require a mild hot-bed, or a place in the propagating house. Sow on rich fine soil in boxes, cover lightly, and place in a temperature of 60 deg.. When forward enough prick out the plants on a rich bed close to the glass, in a temperature of 60 deg. to 65 deg., keep liberally moist, and give air, at first with great caution, but increasing as the natural temperature rises until the lights can be removed during the day. The plant may thus be hardened for a first planting on a warm border in a bed consisting of one-half rotten hot-bed manure and one-half of turfy loam. The bed need not be deep, but it must be constantly moist, and old lights should be at hand to give shelter when needful. If well grown in trenches, this first crop will be of excellent quality, and will come in early.
For the general crop a second sowing may be made of the finest Red and White varieties, also on a mild hot-bed, in the second week of March, and have treatment similar to the first, but once pricking out into the open bed will be sufficient, the largest plants being put out first at six inches, and to have shelter if needful; other plantings in the same way to follow until the seed-bed is cleared. By good management this sowing may be made to serve the purpose of three sowings, the chief point being to prick out the most forward plants on another mild bed as soon as they are large enough to be lifted, and to make a succession from the same seed-bed as the plants advance to a suitable size.
The third and last sowing may be made in the second week of April, in an open border, on rich light soil, and should have the shelter of mats or old lights during cold weather. From this, also, there should be two or three prickings out, the first to be transferred to a bit of hard ground, covered with about three inches of rich mulchy stuff, in the warmest spot that can be found, and the last to a similar bed on the coldest spot in the garden. In the final planting the same order should be followed. The result will be a prolonged supply from one sowing, and the first lot will come in early, though sown late, if the plants are kept growing without a check, and receive thoroughly generous culture.
The planting out is an important matter, and each lot will require separate treatment, subordinate to one general and very simple plan. Celery must have rich soil, abundant moisture, and must be blanched to make it fit for table. There are various ways of accomplishing these ends, although they differ but slightly, and common sense will guide us in the matter. For the earliest crops the ground must be laid out in trenches, with as much rich stable manure dug in as can be afforded. To overdo it in this respect seems impossible, for Celery, like Cauliflower, will grow freely in rotten manure alone, without any admixture of loam. The trenches should be eighteen inches wide at bottom, ten inches deep, and four feet from centre to centre, and should run north and south. The plants are to be carefully lifted with a trowel, and placed six to nine inches apart in single or double rows, and should have water as planted, that there may be no check. In a cold soil and a cold season the trenches may be less in depth by two or three inches with advantage. If dry weather ensues, water must be given ungrudgingly, but earthing up should not commence until the plant has made a full and profitable growth, for the earthing pretty well stops the growth, and is but a finishing process, requiring from five to seven weeks to bring the crop to perfection. The second lot can be put out in the same way, and other plantings may follow at discretion; but as the season advances the trenches must be less deep.
Earthing up is often performed in a rough way, as though the plant were made of wood instead of the most delicate tissue. The first earthing should be done with a hand-fork, and quite loosely, to allow the heart of the plant room to expand. The result should be a little ring of light earth scarcely pressing the outside leaves, and leaving the whole plant as free as it was before. A fortnight or so later the earthing must be carried a stage further by means of the spade. Chop the earth over, and lay it in heaps on each side of the plant. Then gather a plant together with both hands, liberate one hand, and with it bring the earth to the plant half round the base, and, changing hands, pack up the earth on the other side. Be careful not to press the soil very close; also avoid putting any crumbs into the heart of the plant; and do not earth higher than the base of the leaves. As soon as may be necessary repeat this process, carrying the earth a stage higher; and about a week from this finish the operation.
The top of the plant must now be closed, and the earth carefully packed so high that only the very tops of the leaves are visible. Finish to a proper slope with the spade, but do not press the plants unduly, the object being simply to obtain a final growth of the innermost leaves in darkness, but otherwise free from restraint.
The Bed System answers particularly well for producing a large supply of Celery with the least amount of labour. This method of cultivation is also especially suitable for raising Celery intended to be served when boiled, or for soups. Celery beds are made four and a half feet wide and ten inches deep, the soil which is taken out being laid up in a slope round the outside of the bed, and the bank thus formed may be planted with any quick crop, such as Dwarf Beans. The ground will need to be heavily manured in the same manner as for the trench system. Space the plants six inches apart in single or double lines, as may be preferred, and allow not less than twelve inches between the rows. Water must be given to each row as planted; afterwards the surface to be several times chopped over with the hoe or a small fork, and watering repeated until the plants have made a start. An easy means of blanching is by the use of stiff paper collars as described below; another simple method is to place mats over the tops of the plants when nearly full grown. The bed system is not only economical, but convenient for sheltering in winter, and should have the attention of gardeners who are expected to supply abundance of Celery throughout the winter and spring, for in such cases a large sample is not required, but quality and continuance are of importance.
It is a great point to keep Celery unhurt by frost far on in the winter, and the advantage of growing the late crops on dry light soil, and on the bed system, will be seen in the ease with which the plants can be preserved. On heavy soil Celery soon suffers from frost, but not so readily on a soil naturally light and dry. Moreover, the bed system allows of many methods of protection, with whatever materials are at command. In heavy soil fine crops of Celery for autumn use may be grown, but in consequence of the liability of the plant to suffer by winter damp, it is advisable to plant late crops on the level, and earth up from the adjoining plots in order to keep the roots dry in winter. Another step towards securing a late supply consists in bending the tops on one side at the final earthing, which prevents the trickling of water into the heart of the plant during heavy rain or snow.
Celery for Exhibition.—From the opening paragraph it will be gathered that to produce extra fine specimens of Celery for exhibition very generous treatment of the plants is necessary. Apart from the choice of varieties—and only the finest strains should be considered—four points are of especial importance to the cultivator. The ground must be liberally enriched; at no period should the plant receive a check or suffer for want of water; there must be the closest inspection at frequent intervals to prevent disfiguration of the stalks or leaves by slugs, snails, or the Celery fly; and finally the operation of blanching will need great care and discretion. These points have already been dealt with at some length. But on the question of blanching it may be well to add that in order to insure perfect specimens, free from blemish, artificial means of some kind must be adopted in place of earthing up in the ordinary way. The use of strips of good quality brown paper will prove both simple and effectual. These strips need not exceed a width of five or six inches, fresh bands being added as growth develops. Tie them securely with raffia or twine, making due allowance for expansion of the plant, and when in position carefully draw the soil towards the base.
The numerous enemies of Celery, such as slugs, snails, the mole-cricket, and the maggot, do not seriously interfere with the crop where good cultivation prevails, but the Celery fly appears to be indifferent to good cultivation, and therefore must be dealt with directly. Dusting the leaves occasionally with soot has been found to operate beneficially. It should be done during the month of June on the mornings of days that promise to be sunny. If the soot is put on carelessly it will do more harm than good; a very fine dusting will suffice to render the plant distasteful to the fly. Syringing the leaves with water impregnated with tar has also saved plants from attack. Where the eggs are lodged the leaves will soon appear blistered, and the maggot within must be crushed by pinching the blister between the thumb and finger. Leaves that are much blistered should be removed and burned, but to rob the plants of many leaves will seriously reduce the vigour of growth.
Celeriac, or Turnip-rooted Celery, is much prized on the Continent as a cooked vegetable, and as a salad. In ordinary Celery the stem forms a mere basis to the leaves, but in Celeriac it is developed into a knob weighing from one to five pounds, and the root is more easily preserved than Celery. When cooked in the same manner as Sea Kale, Celery is well known as a delicacy at English tables, and the cooked Celeriac ranks in importance with it, though it affords quite a different dish. The stem or axis of the plant is used, and not the stalks. To grow fine Celeriac a long season is requisite; and therefore it is advisable to sow the seed in a gentle heat early in March, and afterwards prick out and treat as Celery; but after the first stage the treatment is altogether different. For the plantation a light and rich soil is required, and where the staple is heavy, a small bed can easily be prepared by spreading six inches depth of any sandy soil over the surface. The plants must be put out on the level a foot and a half apart each way, and be planted as shallow as possible. Before planting, trim carefully to remove lateral shoots that might divide the stems, and after planting water freely. The cultivation will consist in keeping the crop clean, and frequently drawing the soil away from the plants, for the more they stand out of the ground the better, provided they are not distressed. They must never stand still for want of water, or the roots will not attain to a proper size. The lateral shoots and fibres must be removed to keep the roots intact, but not to such an extent as to arrest progress. When a good growth has been made, and the season is declining, cover the bulbs or stems with a thin coat of fine soil, and in the first week of October lift a portion of the crop and store it in sand, all the leaves being first removed, except those in the centre, which must remain, or the roots may waste their energies in producing another set. The portion of the crop left in the ground will need protection from frost, and this can be accomplished by earthing them over with soil taken from between the rows.
Celeriac is cooked in the same manner as Beet, and requires about the same length of time. The stems, bulbs, or roots (for the knobs, which are true stems, are known by various names) are trimmed, washed, and put into boiling water without salt or any flavouring, and kept boiling until quite tender; they may then be pared, sliced, and served with white sauce, or left uncut to be sliced up for salads when cold.
A valuable addition to the supply of winter and spring roots. When stewed and served with melted butter, Chicory bears a slight resemblance to Sea Kale. More frequently, however, it is eaten in the same manner as Celery, with cheese, and it also makes an excellent and most wholesome salad. All the garden varieties have been obtained from the wild plant, and some of the stocks show a decided tendency to revert to the wild condition. It is therefore important to sow a carefully selected strain, or the roots may be worthless for producing heads.
Seed should be sown in May or June, in rows one foot apart, and the plants thinned out to about nine inches in the rows. The soil must be deep and rich, but free from recent manure, except at a depth of twelve inches, when the roots will attain the size of a good Parsnip.
In autumn the roots must be lifted uninjured with the aid of a fork, and only a few at a time, as required. After cutting off the tops just above the crown, they can at once be started into growth, and it is essential that this be made in absolute darkness. French growers plant in a warm bed of the temperature suited to Mushrooms, but this treatment ruins the flavour, and has the effect of making the fibre of the leaves woolly. It is far simpler and better to put the roots into a cellar or shed in which a temperature above the freezing point may be relied on, and from which every ray of light can be excluded. They can be closely packed in deep boxes, with light soil or leaf-mould between. If the soil be fairly moist, watering will not be necessary for a month, and had better not be resorted to until the plants show signs of flagging. Instead of boxes, a couple of long and very wide boards, stood on edge and supported from the outside, make a convenient and effective trough. The packing of the roots with soil can be commenced at one end, and be gradually extended through the entire length, until the part first used is ready for a fresh start. Breaking the leaves is better than cutting, and gathering may begin about three weeks after the roots are stored. From well-grown specimens, heads may be obtained equal to a compact Cos Lettuce, and by a little management it is easy to maintain a supply from October until the end of May. The quantity of salading to be obtained from a few roots is really astonishing.
Corn Salad, or Lamb's Lettuce, so often seen on Continental tables, is comparatively unknown in this country. The reason for this is, perhaps, to be found in the fact that, as a raw vegetable, it is not particularly palatable, although when dressed as a salad with oil and the usual condiments it is altogether delicious, and forms a most refreshing episode in the routine of a good dinner. Corn Salad is a plant of quick growth, and is valued for its early appearance in spring, when elegant salads are much in request. It may be mixed with other vegetables for the purpose, or served alone with a little suitable preparation.
The most important sowings are made in August and September. Seed may, however, be sown at any time from February to October, but only those who are accustomed to the plant should trouble to secure summer crops; when Lettuces are plentiful Corn Salad is seldom required. Any good soil will grow it, but the situation should be dry and open. Sow in drills six inches apart, and thin to six inches in the rows. The crop is taken in the same way as Spinach, either by the removal of separate leaves or cutting over in tufts.
Brassica oleracea costata
Couve Tronchuda, or Portugal Cabbage, is a fine vegetable that should be grown in every garden, including those in which Cabbages generally are not regarded as of much importance. The plant is of noble growth, and in rich ground requires abundant room for the spread of its great leaves, the midribs of which are thick, white, tender, and when cooked in the same manner as Sea Kale quite superb in quality. When a fair crop of these midribs has been taken there remains the top Cabbage, which is excellent.
Two or three sowings may be made in February, March, and April, and the early ones must be in heat. Transfer to rich soil as early as possible, giving the plants ample room, from two to three feet each way, and aid with plentiful supplies of water in dry weather.
Cress is best grown in small lots from frequent sowings, and the sorts should be kept separate, and, if possible, on the same border. Fresh fine soil is requisite, and there is no occasion for manuring, in fact it is objectionable, but a change of soil must be made occasionally to insure a good growth. The seed is usually sown too thick, yet thin sowing is not to be recommended. It is important to cut Cress when it is just ready—tender, green, short, and plump. This it will never be if sown too thick, or allowed to stand too long. Immediately the plant grows beyond salad size it becomes worthless, and should be dug in. From small sowings at frequent intervals under glass a constant supply of Cress may be kept up through the cold months of the year, for which purpose shallow boxes or pans will be found most convenient. Cress generally requires rather more time than Mustard.
American or Land Cress (Barbarea praecox) is of excellent quality when grown on a good border, and two or three sowings should be made in the spring and autumn in shady spots. If the site is not naturally moist, water must be copiously given.
Water Cress (Nasturtium officinale) is so highly prized that many who are out of the reach of ordinary sources of supply would gladly cultivate it were there a reasonable prospect of success. Assertions have been made that it can be grown in any garden without water, but we have never yet seen a sample fit to eat which has been grown without assistance from the water can. A running stream is not necessary. Make a trench in a shady spot, and well enrich the soil at the bottom of it. In this sow the seed in March, and when the plants are established keep the soil well moistened. The more freely this is done the better will be the result. Other sowings may be made in April, August, and September. We have seen Water Cress successfully cultivated in pots and pans immersed in saucers of water placed in shady positions.
The Cucumber is everywhere valued. Its exceeding usefulness explains its popularity, and happily the plant is of an accommodating character. In large establishments, Cucumbers are grown at all seasons of the year; in medium-sized gardens, summer Cucumbers are generally deemed sufficient, and there is no difficulty in growing an abundant and continuous supply of the finest quality. The winter cultivation demands suitable appliances and skilful management; but a very small house, with an efficient heating apparatus, will suffice to produce a large and constant supply, and therefore winter Cucumbers need not be regarded as beyond the range of practice of any ordinary well-kept garden.
Frame Cucumbers are the most in demand, and the easiest to grow. The very first point for the cultivator is to determine when to begin, for the rule is to begin too early, and to waste time and opportunity in consequence. We will suppose the Cucumbers are to be grown in a two-light frame, for which will be required four good cartloads of stable manure. This should be put in a heap three weeks before the bed is made up, and the bed will have to last until the season is sufficiently advanced to sustain the heat without any further fermentation. Considering these points, it will be understood that it is a far safer proceeding to begin the first week in April than the first week in March, and unless the way is clearly seen, the later date is certainly preferable, for it reduces to a minimum the conflict with time in the matter of bottom heat. Make up the heap; then, early in March, turn it twice, and at the end of the month prepare the bed, firming the stuff with a fork as the work proceeds, but taking care not to tread on the bed. Put on the lights and leave the affair for five or six days; then lay down a bed of rich loamy soil of a somewhat light and turfy texture, about nine inches deep. It is now optional to sow or plant as may be most convenient. Strong plants in pots, put out at once, will fruit earlier than plants from seeds sown on the bed. But sowing on the bed is good practice for all that, and if this plan is adopted a few more seeds must be sown than the number of plants required, to provide a margin for enemies; any surplus plants will generally prove useful, for Cucumber plants seldom go begging. If it is preferred to begin with plants, the question of providing them must be considered in good time. The seed should be sown at least a month in advance, and should be brought forward on a hot-bed or in a cool part of a stove. Many a successful Cucumber grower has no better means of raising plants than by sowing the seeds in a box or pan of light rich earth, kept in a sunny corner of a common greenhouse, with a slate or tile laid over until the seeds start, and by a little careful management nice thrifty plants are secured in the course of about four weeks. In some books on horticulture a great deal is said as to the soil in which Cucumber seed should be sown. We advise the reader not to make too much of that question. Any turfy loam, or even peat, will answer; but a rank soil is certainly unfit. The object should be to obtain short, stout plants of a healthy green colour; not the long-drawn, pallid things that are often to be seen on sale, and which by their evident weakness seem destined to illustrate the problems of Cucumber disease.
Having made a beginning with strong plants on a good bed, the two matters of importance are to regulate the temperature and the watering. In the first instance, it will be necessary to shade the plants a little, but as they acquire strength they should have more light and more air than are usually allowed to Cucumbers. A temperature averaging 60 deg. by night and 80 deg. by day will be found safe and profitable, as promoting a healthy growth and lasting fruitfulness. But the rule must be elastic. You may shut up at 90 deg. without harm, and during sunshine the glass may rise to 95 deg. without injury, provided the plants have air and are not dry at the roots. But it is of great moment that the night temperature should be kept near 60 deg. and not go below it. If the thermometer shows that the night temperature has been above the proper point owing to the heat of the bed, wedge up the lights about half an inch in the evening, and as the season advances increase this supply of night air, for it keeps the plants in health, provided there is no chill accompanying it. As regards watering, the important point is to employ soft water of the same temperature as the frame, and therefore a spare can, filled with water, must be always kept in the frame ready for use, and when emptied should be filled again and left for the next watering. Twice a day at least the plants and the sides of the frame should receive a shower from the syringe. It is better to syringe three times than twice, but this must be in some degree determined by the temperature. The greater the heat, the more freely should air and water be supplied; on the other hand, if the heat runs down, give water with caution, or disaster may follow. In case of emergency the plants will go through a bad time without serious damage if kept almost dry, and then it will be prudent to give but little air. Sometimes the heat of the bed runs out before there is sufficient sun heat to keep the plants growing, but if they can be maintained in health for a week or so, hot weather may set in, and all will come right. But to carry Cucumbers through at such a time demands particular care as to watering and air-giving.
As regards stopping and training, we may as well say at once, that the less of both the better. Free healthy natural growth will result in an abundant production of fruit, and stopping and training will do very little to promote the end in view. But there is something to be done to secure an even growth and the exposure of every leaf to light. When the young plant has made three rough leaves, nip out the point to encourage the production of shoots from the base. When the shoots have made four leaves, nip out the points to promote a further growth of side shoots, and after this there must be no more stopping until there is a show of fruit. The growth should be pegged out to cover the bed in the most regular manner possible, and wherever superfluous shoots appear they must be removed. Any crowding will have to be paid for, because crowded shoots are not fruitful. If a great show of fruit appears suddenly, remove a large portion of it, as over-cropping makes a troublesome glut for a short time, and then there is an end of the business; but by keeping the crop down to a reasonable limit, the plants will bear freely to the end of the season. Every fruiting shoot should be stopped at two leaves beyond the fruit, and as the crop progresses there must be occasional pruning out of old shoots to make room for young ones. An error of management likely to occur with a beginner is allowing the bed to become dry below while it is kept quite moist above by means of the syringe. Many cultivators drive sticks into the bed here and there, and from time to time they draw these out and judge by their appearance whether or not the bed needs a heavy watering. To be dry at the root is deadly to the Cucumber plant, and to be in a swamp is not less deadly. It must have abundance of moisture above and below, but stagnation of either air or water will bring disease, ending in a waste of labour.
The greenhouse cultivation of the Cucumber for a summer crop only is the most profitable and simple as well as the most interesting of all the methods practised. In many gardens the houses that have been filled during the winter with Geraniums and other plants are very poorly furnished during the summer, and present a most unsightly appearance. Now, it is a very easy matter to render them at once profitable and beautiful, for when clothed with green vines bearing handsome Cucumbers, such houses are attractive and pay their way amazingly well. To carry out the routine properly, the house should be cleared at the end of April, the plants being removed to pits and frames. If possible, make up the beds on slates laid close over the hot-water pipes, and use a bushel or more of soil under each light to begin with. First lay on the slate a large seed-pan, bottom upwards, and on that a few flat tiles, and then heap up a shallow cone of nice light turfy loam. Start the fire and shut up, and raise the heat of the empty house to 80 deg. or 90 deg. for one whole day. The next day plant on each hillock a short stout Cucumber plant, or sow three seeds. Proceed as advised for frame culture, keeping a temperature of 60 deg. by night and 80 deg. by day, with a rise of 5 deg. to 10 deg. during sunshine. Ply the syringe freely, give air carefully, and use the least amount of shading possible. It will very soon be found that by judicious management in shutting up and air-giving, the firing may be dispensed with, and then it remains only to syringe freely and train with care. The plants should not be stopped at all, but be taken up direct to the roof and be trained out on a few wires or tarred string, in the first instance right and left, and afterwards along the rafters to meet at the ridge, and form a rich leafy arcade. The fruits will appear in quantity, and must be thinned to prevent over-cropping. As the plants grow, earth must be added to the hillocks until there is a continuous bed, on which a certain number of shoots may be trained where there is sufficient light for them. It is best to begin as advised above, with the aid of fire heat to start the crop for the sake of gaining time; but if this is not convenient begin without fire heat in the last week of May, and the plants will produce fruit until the chill of autumn makes an end of them, and the house is again required for the greenhouse plants.
Winter Cucumbers thrive best in lean-to houses with somewhat steep roofs, as such houses are less liable to chill during cold windy weather, and they catch a maximum of the winter sunshine. In a mild winter, Cucumbers may be grown in any kind of house that can be maintained at a suitable temperature, and the markets are supplied from rough constructions that do duty for many purposes. But in hard weather, the steep lean-to, with bed along the front, and tank to give equable bottom heat, will prove the most serviceable, as it will neither allow snow to lodge on the glass, nor suffer any serious decline of temperature during the prevalence of sharp frost and keen winds. For late autumn supply any kind of house will suffice, but best of all an airy span. A brick pit will answer every purpose from October to March with good management, and fermenting materials will afford the needful heat. In such cases trenches should be provided for occasional renewal of the bottom heat. But a roomy house and a service of hot water justly stand in favour with experienced cultivators, as combining the necessary conditions with convenience of management.
For winter culture, plants are raised from seeds and from cuttings. Seedling plants are the most vigorous, but they require a little more time than cuttings to arrive at a fruiting state. For pot culture cuttings are preferable, as only a moderate crop is expected, and quickness of production is of great importance. It is usual to sow the first lot of seeds on the 1st of September, and to sow again on the 1st of October and the 1st of November; after which it is not advisable to sow again until the 1st of February for the spring crop. If the management is good, the first sowing will be in fruit by the time the third batch of seed is sown, say, by the first week of November, and thenceforward throughout the winter there should be no break in the supply.
The management of Winter Cucumbers turns upon details chiefly, and will be found in the end to depend rather upon care than skill. The general principles are the same as in growing Cucumbers in frames, the task for the cultivator being to carry them out successfully. Begin by sowing the seed singly in small pots in light turfy loam, or peat with which a fair proportion of sharp sand has been mixed. These pots to be placed in a heat of 70 deg. to 75 deg., and for plants to last long the lower temperature is preferable. As regards the next stage, the plants may be trained up rafters, or spread out on beds, the first being always the better plan where it happens to be convenient. But the prudent cultivator will not be tied to rules; he will cut his coat according to his cloth, and while he has a house of Cucumbers trained to the roof, he will, perhaps, also have a pit filled with plants on beds. To stop severely is bad practice, for vigorous growth is wanted; but a certain amount of stopping must be done to promote an even growth, and to distribute the fruit fairly both in space and time. We have already admitted that in some books on gardening too much has been said about soil. In many places a suitable turfy loam, or a good fibrous peat, may be obtained, and the accidents that have befallen Cucumbers have usually been the result of bad management in respect of heat, water, and air, rather than the use of unsuitable soil. But it must not be supposed that we are careless about this matter. Neither a pasty clay, a sour sticky loam, nor a poor sandy or chalky soil will produce fine Cucumbers. On the other hand, rank manure and poor leaf-mould are both unfavourable materials. There is nothing like mellow loam, which can be enriched and modified at discretion, without going to extremes.
Ridge Cucumbers are grown in much the same way as recommended for Vegetable Marrows. They may be put on hillocks or beds, and in either case a foundation of fermenting material is required to insure a crop in the early part of the summer. For a late crop, the natural heat of the soil will be sufficient should the summer prove to be fine, but in a cold season Ridge Cucumbers are disappointing. Of the many methods of growing them, one of the best is to lay out the ground in four-feet beds by taking out the soil to a depth of fifteen inches, and spreading about that depth or more of half-rotted manure, to which may be added any leaves and other litter that may be handy. Cover with a foot depth of good loam. About mid-April sow the seeds in three-inch pots or in boxes and place in a cool greenhouse. After careful hardening, plant out about the third week of May. If preferred, seeds may be sown on the bed early in May. Give the plants the protection of a hand-light should the weather prove unfavourable, and some care will be needed to keep them moving fairly until the season is so far advanced as to allow for the removal of the lights. Put the plants at thirty inches apart down the middle of the bed, and when growing freely, nip out the points once only. A crop of Lettuce may be taken from the beds while the plants are advancing.
As a salad Dandelion has won general esteem for its wholesome medicinal qualities. Nature teaches the way to grow this plant, for she sows the seed in early summer, and we find the finest plants on dry ground, while there are none to be found in bogs and swamps. Any gravelly or chalky soil will grow good Dandelion, one fair digging without manure being a sufficient preparation for it. Sow in May or June, and thin to one foot apart every way, keeping the crop scrupulously clean by flat hoeing. Any time in the winter the roots may be lifted and forced in the same way as Sea Kale, or they may be covered with pots in spring to blanch where grown. In any case the spring growth must be made in darkness, for when green the flavour is bitter. Invalids who require this salutary salad may obtain early supplies by planting the roots in boxes in a cellar, and covering with empty boxes. Only as much water should be given as will keep the roots reasonably moist.
EGG PLANT (AUBERGINE)
Solatium Melongena, S. esculentum
In this country the Egg Plant is generally grown merely as an ornament, but it is a delicious vegetable when sliced and fried in oil, the purple-and black-fruited kinds being especially serviceable for the table. The common white, which is best known, is fairly good when cooked young, though less rich in flavour than the purple. The cultivation recommended for Capsicum will suit the Egg Plant, but little atmospheric moisture is needed or the seedlings may damp off. They are not well adapted for planting out, although in a warm season they will fruit freely under a sunny wall, and will grow in a gravel walk if helped at first with a little good soil round the roots. If required in quantity for the table, the purple variety may be grown in a frame from plants raised on a hot-bed. Generally speaking, a few plants in pots are all that are required where the fruit is not valued as an esculent.
As a result of the growing taste for wholesome salads Endive has considerably advanced in public esteem. The flavour of well-blanched Endive suits most palates that have had experience of salads, and of the salutary properties of the plant we have a hint in its close relation to the Chicory.
The selection of sorts is a question of importance, because the handsome curled varieties that make the best appearance on the table, and might be regarded as ornaments if they were not edible, are the very finest for salads, being tender, with a fresh nutty flavour. The broad-leaved sorts are not so well adapted for salads as for stews, and they take the place of Lettuces when the latter are not available for soups and ragouts. However, when an emergency occurs, the curled varieties will be found suitable for cooking, and the broad-leaved for salading, and therefore there need be no waste where one sort predominates.
Soil.—A difficulty common to Endive culture may be got over in the way advised for Celeriac. The plant requires a light, dry, sandy soil; and a portion, at least, of the crop is expected to stand through the winter. Thus on a heavy soil there is a prospect of failure in respect of the late crop, but that is obviated by adopting a made bed—one of smallish dimensions being sufficient to accommodate a large stock of plants. Select an open spot, make a foundation of any hard rubbish that is at hand, and on this put one to two feet of sandy soil. This will form a raised bed of a kind exactly suited to the plant, and will cost but little as compared with its ultimate value. If regularly dressed with manure, and otherwise well managed, the bed will supply Endive in winter and other salads in summer, or it may be cropped with Dwarf Beans, which can be removed in August to make way for the usual planting of Endive. Where the soil is naturally light and dry no such preparation is needed, but Endive does not come to perfection without food, and therefore the soil should be rich and deeply dug.
Sowing and Transplanting.—The seed may be sown as early as March, in a moderate heat, but the latter part of April is early enough for most purposes, and the main sowings are made in June. Later sowings may follow in July and August. But the June sowing is the most important, as by a little careful management it will supply a few early heads and many late ones. Sow in shallow drills six inches apart, and when the plants are an inch high draw the most forward, and prick them out on a bed of rich light soil in the same way as Celery, and with a little nursing these will make a first plantation. The plants in the seed-bed should be thinned to three inches, and must have water in dry weather. All the thinnings should be pricked out in the first instance to make them strong for planting, but the last lot may go direct to the beds to finish.
The final planting must be on rich, light, dry soil, and water given to encourage growth. The distance for the curled varieties is a foot each way, and for the broad-leaved fifteen inches. In taking the last lot from the seed-bed, a crop should be left untouched to mature at twelve to fifteen inches apart. These plants will give a first and most excellent supply if carefully blanched.
If more convenient, seed may be sown where the crop is intended to stand, the plants being thinned to the distances already given.
The blanching is an important business, and is variously performed. The customary mode is to tie the leaves together in the manner usual with Lettuce and mould them up. This method answers perfectly, except in wet seasons, when, if the plants stand for some time, the outer leaves begin to rot, and the decay proceeds inwards, to the deterioration or destruction of the plant. A clean and effective process is to cover the heart of the plant with a flower-pot. The hole is darkened with part of a tile or slate, on which should be laid a piece of turf or a handful of mould. A plate or clean tile placed over the centre of the plant will also blanch Endives satisfactorily in autumn. For winter supplies, the plants may be lifted as wanted and placed in boxes or pots of soil, these being covered with other boxes or pots to exclude light. A Mushroom-house, cellar, or under a greenhouse stage, will serve for storing the lifted plants. The blanching must be carried on in such a way as to insure a succession without a glut at any time, for when sufficiently blanched Endive should be used, or decay will soon set in.
The mode of culture advised for Shallots will suit Garlic also, except that the latter should be planted in February about two inches beneath the surface of the soil, and the bulbs may be grown closer together, about eight or nine inches apart each way.
When large bulbs are required for exhibition or other purposes, the cloves—as the divisions of each root are called—should be planted separately; but for general use moderate-sized bulbs, planted whole, will produce a heavier crop.
GOURD and PUMPKIN
Gourds and Pumpkins may be grown to perfection by precisely the same method recommended for Ridge Cucumbers; but as the plants occupy more space, room must be left for them to extend south wards beyond the limits of the ridge. It is well to put out strong plants from seeds sown in pots in April or May, and protect them until established. If these are not obtainable, the seed may be sown where the plants are intended to stand, and there will in time be plenty of produce, but of course somewhat later in the season than if strong plants had been put out in the first instance. Keep a sharp look-out for slugs, which will flock in from all quarters to feast upon them, but will scarcely touch them after they have been planted a week or so. Any rough fermenting material, such as grass mowings, may be used in making the hills, to give them the aid of a warm bed for a brief space of time, and it is a great gain if they grow freely from the first. Later on the natural heat will be enough for them.
The edible Gourds are useful in all their stages and ages; and if the cultivator has a fancy to grow large, handsome fruits, he can make the business answer by hanging them up for use in winter, when they may be employed in soups in place of Carrots, or in addition to the usual vegetables, and may indeed be cooked in half a dozen different ways. There remains yet one more purpose to which the plants may be applied: supposing you have a great plantation of edible Gourds and Marrows, and would like a peculiarly elegant and delicious dish of Spinach, pinch off a sufficiency of the tops of the advancing shoots, and cook them Spinach fashion. If properly done, it is one of the finest vegetables ever eaten. As pinching off the tender tops of the shoots lessens the fruitfulness of the vines, we only recommend this procedure where there is a large plantation.
Gourds may be trained to trellises, fences, and walls. In all such cases, a good bed should be prepared of any light, rich loam, and it will be none the less effective if made on a mound of fermenting material.
With certain exceptions, the growing of Sweet Herbs from seeds is altogether advantageous. The plants come perfectly true, and are so vigorous that it is easier to raise them from seed than to secure a succession from slips or cuttings. To meet a large and continuous demand in the kitchen there must be a proportionate plantation in the border; but in gardens of medium size we do not advocate the culture of Herbs on an extensive scale, unless there be a special object in view. A moderate number of Herbs will meet the necessities of most families. Still it is a fact that the tendency is always in the direction of increased variety, and gardeners are called on to provide frequent changes of flavouring Herbs, some of which are quite as highly prized in salads as they are for culinary purposes.
In the smallest gardens, Mint, Parsley, Sage, and both Common and Lemon Thyme, must find a place. In gardens which have any pretension to supply the needs of a luxurious table there should be added Basil, Chives, Pot and Sweet Marjoram, Summer and Winter Savory, Sorrel, Tarragon, and others that may be in especial favour. Large gardens generally contain a plot, proportioned to demands, of all the varieties which follow.
Several of the most popular Herbs, such as Chives, Mint, Tarragon, and Lemon Thyme, are not grown from seed—at all events, those who venture on the pastime might employ their labour to greater advantage. But others, such as Basil, Borage, Chervil, Fennel, Marjoram, Marigold, Parsley, Savory, &c, are grown from seed, in some cases of necessity, and in others because it is the quicker and easier way of securing a crop.
Angelica and Mint flourish in moist soil, but the majority of aromatic Herbs succeed on land that is dry, poor, and somewhat sandy, rather than in the rich borders that usually prevail in the Kitchen Garden. Happily they are not very particular, but sunshine they must have for the secretion of their fragrant essences. A narrow border marked off in drills, and, if possible, sloping to the south, will answer admirably. Thin the plants in good time, and the thinnings of those wanted in quantity may, if necessary, be transplanted. The soil must be kept free from weeds, and every variety be allowed sufficient space for full development.
Angelica (A. Archangelica).—A native biennial which is not easily raised from seed treated in the ordinary way. Germination is always capricious, slow and irregular. It may be several months before the plants begin to appear. The best results are obtained by placing the seed in sand, kept moist for several weeks before sowing. The leaves and stalks are sometimes blanched and eaten as Celery, and are also boiled with meat and fish. Occasionally the tender stems and midribs are coated with candied sugar as a confection. Angelica was formerly supposed to possess great medicinal virtues, but its reputation as a remedy for poison and as a preventive of infectious diseases is not supported by the disciples of modern chemistry. The seeds are still used for flavouring liqueurs.
Balm (Melissa officinalis).—A perennial herb, which can be propagated by cuttings or grown as an annual from seed. An essential oil is distilled from the leaves, but they are chiefly used, when dried, for making tea for invalids, especially those suffering from fever. The plant has also been used for making Balm wine. Sow in May.
Basil, Bush (Ocymum minimum).—A dwarf-growing variety, used for the same purposes as the Sweet Basil. Sow in April.
Basil, Sweet (Ocymum Basilicum).—A tender annual, originally obtained from India, and one of the most popular of the flavouring Herbs. Seeds should be sown in February or March in gentle heat. When large enough the seedlings must be pricked off into boxes until they are ready for transferring to a rich border in June, or seed may be sown in the open ground during April and May. A space of eight inches between the plants in the rows will suffice, but the rows should be at least a foot apart. The flower-stems must be cut as they rise, and be tied in bundles for winter use. This practice will prolong the life of the plant until late in the season. Many gardeners lift plants in September, pot them, and so maintain a supply of fresh green leaves until winter is far advanced.
Borage (Borago officinalis).—A native hardy plant, which thrives in poor, stony soil. The flowers are used for flavouring purposes, especially for claret-cup. Borage is also a great favourite with bee-masters. Sow in April or May in good loam, and thin to fifteen or eighteen inches apart. The rows should be from eighteen to twenty-four inches asunder, for the plant is tall, and strong in growth.
Chervil, Curled (Anthriscus Cerefolium).—Used for salads, garnishing, and culinary purposes. To secure a regular supply of leaves small successional sowings are necessary from spring to autumn, and frequent watering in dry weather will prevent the plants from being spoiled by throwing up seed-stems. For winter use, sow in boxes kept in a warm temperature.
Chives (Allium Schaenoprasum).—A mild substitute for the Onion in salads and soups. The plant is a native of Britain, and will grow freely in any ordinary garden soil. Propagation is effected by division of the roots either in spring or autumn. The clumps should be cut regularly in succession whether wanted or not, with the object of maintaining a continuous growth of young and tender shoots. At intervals of four years it will be necessary to lift, divide, and replant the roots on fresh ground.
Fennel (Faeniculum officinale).—A hardy perennial which has been naturalised in some parts of this country. It is grown in gardens to furnish a supply of its elegant feathery foliage for garnishing and for use in fish sauces. Occasionally the stems are blanched and eaten in the same way as Celery, and in the natural state they are boiled as a vegetable. The seeds are also employed for flavouring. Sow in drills in April and May, and thin the plants to fifteen inches apart.
Finocchio, or Florence Fennel (Faeniculum dulce, DC).—A sweet-tasting herb, very largely grown in the south of Italy, where it is eaten both in the natural state and when boiled. Sow in the open ground during spring or early summer, in rows about eighteen inches apart, and thin or transplant to six or nine inches. When the base begins to swell, earth up the plants in the same manner as Celery. If transplanted, pinch off the tips of the roots.
Horehound (Marrubium vulgare).—A well-known medicinal herb, from which an extract is obtained for subduing irritating coughs. Sow in April or May, and thin the plants until they stand fifteen inches apart.
Hyssop (Hyssopus officinalis).—The leaves and young shoots are used as a pot-herb, and the leafy tops and flowers, when dried, are employed for medicinal purposes. Hyssop is also occasionally used as an edging plant. A dry soil and warm situation suit it. Sow in April, and thin the plants to a foot apart in the rows.
Lavender (Lavandula).—Universally known and valued for its perfume. Although the plant is generally propagated from cuttings, it can easily be grown from seed sown in April or May. The plants attain a height of one or two feet, and the stems should not be cut until the flowers are expanded.
Marigold, Pot (Calendula officinalis).—Employed both in flower and vegetable gardens: in the former as a bedding annual, and in the latter that the flowers may be dried and stored for colouring and flavouring soups; also for distilling. In April or May sow the seed in drills one foot apart, and thin the plants to the same distance in the rows.
Marjoram, Pot (Origanum Onites).—One of the most familiar Herbs in British gardens. The aromatic leaves are used both green and when dried for flavouring. Strictly the plant is a perennial, but it is readily grown as an annual. Sow in February or March in gentle heat, and in the open ground a month later. The plants should be allowed a space often inches or a foot each way.
Marjoram, Sweet Knotted (Origanum Majorana).—This plant is used for culinary purposes in the same way as the Pot Marjoram, and it is also regarded as a tonic and stomachic. The most satisfactory mode of cultivation is that of a half-hardy annual. Sow in March or April and allow each plant a square foot of ground.
Mint (Mentha viridis).—Known also as Spearmint. It must be grown from divisions. Between the delicacy of fresh young green leaves and those which have been dried with the utmost care there is so wide a difference that the practice of forcing from November to May is fully justified. This is easily accomplished by packing roots in a box and keeping them moist in a temperature of 60 deg.. Where this is impossible, stems must be cut, bunched, and hung in a cool store for use during winter and spring. Mint grows vigorously in damp soil, and the bed should have occasional attention, to prevent plants from extending beyond their proper boundary. To secure young and luxuriant growth a fresh plantation should be made annually in February or March. If allowed to occupy the same plot of land year after year the leaves become small and the stems wiry.
Parsley (Carum Petroselinum) will teach those who have eyes exactly how it should be grown. There will appear here and there in a garden stray or rogue Parsley plants. No matter how regularly the hoeing and weeding may be done, a stray Parsley plant will occasionally appear alone, perhaps in the midst of Lettuces, or Cauliflowers, or Onions. When these rogues escape destruction they become superb plants, and the gardener sometimes leaves them to enjoy the conditions they have selected, and in which they evidently prosper. The lesson for the cultivator is, that Parsley should have plenty of room from the very first; and this lesson, we feel bound to say, cannot be too often enforced upon young gardeners, for they are apt to sow Parsley far more thickly than is wise, and to be injuriously slow and timid in thinning the crop when the plants are crowding one another.
Parsley, like many other good things, will grow almost anywhere and anyhow, but to make a handsome crop a deep, rich, moist soil is required. It attains to fine quality on a well-tilled clay, but the kindly loam that suits almost every vegetable is adapted to produce perfect Parsley, and every good garden should show a handsome sample, for beauty is the first required qualification. To keep the house fairly well supplied sowings should be made in February, May, and July. The first of these will be in gentle heat. When large enough prick out the plants into boxes, or on to a mild hot-bed, and transfer to the open ground at the end of April, allowing each plant a space of one foot each way. In the open, it is best to sow in lines one foot apart, and thin out first to three inches, and finally to six inches, the strongest of the seedlings being put out one foot apart. By following this plan sufficient supplies for a small household may be obtained from one annual sowing made in April. It should not be overlooked that Parsley is indispensable to exhibitors of vegetables, especially as a groundwork for collections, and due allowance for such calls must be made in fixing the number and extent of the sowings. When the plant pushes for seed it becomes useless, and had best be got rid of; but by planting at various times in different places a sufficiency may be expected to go through a second season without bolting, after which it will be necessary to root them out and consign them to the rubbish-heap. Parsley is often grown as an edging, but it is only in large gardens that this can be done advantageously, and then a very handsome edging is secured. In small gardens it is best to sow on a bed in lines one foot apart, and thin out first to three inches, and finally to six inches, the strongest of the thinnings being planted a foot apart, to last over as proposed above. When Parsley has stood some time it becomes coarse, but the young growth may be renewed by cutting over; this operation being also useful to defer the flowering, which is surely hastened by leaving the plants alone. For the winter supply a late plantation made in a sheltered spot will usually suffice, for the plant is very hardy; but it may be expedient sometimes to put old frames over a piece worth keeping, or to protect during hard weather with dry litter. A few plants lifted into five-inch pots and placed in a cool house will often tide over a difficult period. In gathering, care should be taken to pick separately the young leaves that are nearly full grown, and to take only one or two from each plant. It costs no more time to fill a basket by taking a leaf or two here and there from a whole row than to strip two or three plants, and the difference in the end will be considerable as regards the total produce and quality of the crop.
Pennyroyal (Mentha Pulegium) is a native perennial which must be propagated by divisions, and this can be done either in spring or autumn. The rows may be twelve or fifteen inches apart, but in the rows the plants do well at a distance of eight inches. The taste for Pennyroyal is by no means universal, but some persons like the tender tops in culinary preparations. The belief in its supposed medicinal virtues is slowly dying.
Purslane (Portulaca oleracea).—This annual plant thrives best in a sunny position. Seed should be sown from mid-April onwards to insure a succession of young leaves and shoots which may be cooked as a vegetable or eaten raw as a salad. Space the rows nine inches apart and thin the plants to a distance of six inches.
Rampion (Campanula Rapunculus).—Both leaves and roots are used in winter salads; the roots are also boiled. If the seed be sown earlier than the end of May the plants are liable to bolt. Choose a shady situation where the soil is rich and light, and do not stint water. The rows need not exceed six inches apart, and four inches in the rows will be a sufficient space between plants.
Rosemary (Rosmarinus officinalis).—A hardy evergreen shrub easily grown from seed, the leaves of which are used for making Rosemary tea for relieving headache. An essential oil is also obtained by distillation. A dry, warm, sunny border suits the plant. Sow in April and May.
Rue (Ruta graveolens).—A hardy evergreen shrub, chiefly cultivated for its medicinal qualities. The leaves are acrid, and emit a pungent odour when handled. The plant is shrubby, and as it attains a height of two or three feet it occupies a considerable space. Sow in April.
Sage (Salvia officinalis).—Although Sage can be raised from seed with a minimum of trouble, yet this is one of the few instances where it is an advantage to propagate plants from a good stock. The difference will be obvious to any gardener who will grow seedlings by the side of propagated plants. Still, seedlings are often raised, and as annuals the plants are quite satisfactory. Sow under glass in February and March, and in open ground during April and May. Prick off the seedlings into a nursery bed before transferring to final positions, in which each plant should be allowed a space of fifteen inches.
Savory, Summer (Satureia hortensis).—An aromatic seasoning and flavouring herb, which must be raised annually from seed. Sow early in April in drills one foot apart, and thin the plants to six or eight inches in the rows. Cut the stems when in full flower, and tie in bunches for winter use.
Savory, Winter (Satureia montana).—A hardy dwarf evergreen which can be propagated by cuttings; but it is more economically grown from seed sown at the same time, and treated in the same manner, as Summer Savory.
Sorrel (Rumex scutalus).—The large-leaved or French Sorrel is not only served as a separate dish, but is mingled with Spinach, and is also used as an ingredient in soups, sauces, and salads. Leaves of the finest quality are obtainable from plants a year old, and when the crop has been gathered the ground may with advantage be utilised for some other purpose. Light soil in fairly good heart suits the plant. The seed should be sown in March or early April, in shallow drills six or eight inches apart, and the seedlings must be thinned early, leaving three or four inches between them in the rows. To keep the bed free from weeds is the only attention necessary, unless an occasional watering becomes imperative. In September the entire crop may be transferred to fresh ground, allowing eighteen inches between the plants, or part may be drawn and the remainder left at that distance. In the following spring the flower-stems will begin to rise, and if these are allowed to develop they reduce the size of the leaves and seriously impair their quality; hence the heads should be pinched out as fast as they are presented.
Tarragon (Artemisia Dracunculus).—This aromatic herb is used for a variety of purposes, but is most commonly employed for imparting its powerful flavour to vinegar. The plant is a perennial, and must be propagated by divisions in March or April, or by cuttings placed in gentle heat in spring. Later in the year they will succeed under a hand-glass in the open. Green leaves are preferable to those which have been dried, and by a little management a succession of plants is easily arranged. For winter use roots may be lifted in autumn and placed in heat. Those who have no facilities for maintaining a supply of green leaves rely on foliage cut in autumn and dried.